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Dak Prescott has a long way to go before he even scratches the surface of Tom Brady’s accomplishments. After all, the two-time Pro Bowler remains in search of his first NFC Championship appearance, let alone a Super Bowl berth.

However, even though Prescott can’t relate to Brady from a success standpoint, he shares an unfortunate bond with the GOAT that doesn’t benefit either. 

And if the pair of star quarterbacks fall short of expectations this season, both the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will fail to capture the Lombardi Trophy for the same reason.

Tom Brady has a new issue to worry about in his third year in Tampa

As he attempts to patch things over with his wife, Tom Brady has a legitimate cause for concern on the football field. Unfortunately for the seemingly ageless signal-caller, pass-protection problems stand out as a potential roadblock in his path toward securing ring No. 8. 

The very definition of a pocket passer, Brady has rebounded in a big way as a member of the Buccaneers, largely thanks to improved weapons and a stout offensive line. After getting sacked 27 times during his final season with the New England Patriots, the seven-time Super Bowl champion has only been sacked 43 times in 33 starts since he took his talents to Tampa. 

But that number could rise significantly in 2022. 

Although the tackle positions look set, with veteran Donovan Smith slated to start on the blind side and young All-Pro Tristan Wirfs entrenched on the right, the interior features several question marks. While acquiring Shaq Mason from the Patriots helped overcome the abrupt retirement of Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet, the left guard and center spots could prove problematic.

Between rookie second-round pick Luke Goedeke and 2021 third-rounder Robert Hainsey, Tampa’s starting offensive line will feature two unproven players, the latter of whom is trying to replace well-respected veteran Ryan Jensen.

Moreover, Hainsey has to show he can play center at an adequate level–an arduous task for someone who spent most of his college career at tackle. 

Ultimately, the Buccaneers have three new starters up front. And with precious little depth behind their first unit, a single injury could throw the group into disarray and leave Brady in an unfamiliar position of having to move around, buy time, and avoid oncoming rushers.

Dak Prescott could also experience protection issues in Dallas

Unfortunately for Dak Prescott, he shares a bond with Brady that he undoubtedly wishes didn’t exist. Like his ultra-popular peer, the Cowboys’ highest-paid player enters the 2022 season with uncertainty about his protection squad. 

In what seems like a blink of an eye, Dallas has gone from boasting the best offensive line in the league to having question marks at several spots. Longtime left tackle Tyron Smith didn’t take long to suffer yet another injury setback, as a torn hamstring will sideline him for most of the season.

The team recently signed future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Peters to the practice squad, but the fact the Cowboys resorted to signing a 40-year-old who’s well past his prime speaks volumes about the state of their tackle depth chart. 

Of course, rookie Tyler Smith should be the eventual successor to Tyron Smith. However, the athletic first-round pick entered the league as a raw prospect in need of seasoning. So, whether he takes snaps at tackle or guard, he faces a steep challenge to transition from college to the pros in such short order. 

At the very least, Prescott can feel good about the continued presence of All-Pro right guard Zack Martin. And if 2020 fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz cuts down on committing penalties (he drew 11 flags a year ago) and continues to perform well as a pass protector (0 sacks allowed in 2021), he should cement his case as the Cowboys’ center for years to come. 

Still, the tackle situation should make Dallas fans uneasy entering a pivotal year for Mike McCarthy and Co. And given Prescott’s previous ankle injury, there should be even more reason to worry about whether he’ll make it through the season unscathed.

Where do the Buccaneers and Cowboys rank among the top teams in the NFC?

Tom Brady and Dak Prescott
(L-R) Tom Brady; Dak Prescott | Michael Hickey/Getty Images; Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

How Much Every Starting NFL Quarterback Will Make Per Game in 2022

Although the Buccaneers certainly have more uncertainty heading into Week 1 than the first two years of the TB12 era, they should still be considered a strong contender to represent the conference in Super Bowl 57. Sure, Brady may not have the strongest offensive line in the league, but he has perhaps his best set of weapons ever.

Mike Evans churns out 1,000-yard campaigns annually, a healthy Chris Godwin makes for a hell of a No. 2 receiver, and Russell Gage and Julio Jones round out a deep depth chart. Plus, big-bodied running back Leonard Fournette provides Brady with another target in the passing game. 

Ironically, though, it’s Tampa’s defense that should give teams major trouble. The front seven features a bevy of talented players, including Vita Vea, Devin White, Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett, and promising second-year pass rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.

Combine that with a rock-solid secondary headlined by No. 1 corner Carlton Davis III, and you have the makings of a complete team with a legitimate shot at returning to the Super Bowl. 

As for Dallas? 

It’s much more difficult to see Prescott leading his team to the promised land. 

Besides their offensive line issues, the Cowboys could also run into trouble at wide receiver. Trading Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns for a measly fifth-round pick looks like a massive mistake by Jerry Jones, especially with Michael Gallup still working his way back to full strength. Outside of CeeDee Lamb, who can Prescott trust in crucial situations? 

On the other side of the ball, it’s easy to get excited about what’s to come from the uber-athletic Micah Parsons.

Yet it’s also easy to question whether the dynamic linebacker has enough talent around him. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn’t produced a double-digit sack season since 2018, and the team looks primed to start two second-year players at defensive tackle in Quinton Bohanna and Osa Odighizuwa. Plus, the Cowboys will be without Randy Gregory, who signed a lucrative deal with the Denver Broncos. 

Overall, the Cowboys benefit from playing in a weak division open for the taking. But compared to the Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and maybe even the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles, they appear a clear step behind.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football ReferenceContract info courtesy of Spotrac

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